The club will grow. Of that, A. J. Foyt is convinced. He founded it 36 years ago, when he cruised to the checkered flag after Gordon Johncock's...
INDIANAPOLIS — The club will grow. Of that, A.J. Foyt is convinced.
He founded it 36 years ago, when he cruised to the checkered flag after Gordon Johncock’s car broke to become the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.
Then Al Unser joined him in 1987 and Rick Mears expanded the group to three just four years later.
“You know the way I look at that?” Foyt said. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see a six-, seven-, eight-time winner.
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“Records are made to be broken. That’s what they’re there for. Like I said, with the equipment they have today, if a guy doesn’t win it six, seven times, it’s because he wasn’t trying.”
Two will try to break into Foyt’s exclusive club Sunday in the 97th Indy 500, when for the first time in more than two decades the field will include more than a single three-time winner.
The bouncy Brazilian Helio Castroneves has waited impatiently through three unsatisfying Memorial Day weekends since he collected his third.
Dario Franchitti, a laid-back Scot, is a student of racing history who brushes off talk about his part in it. He’s also the defending champion.
“They know how to race and they are here to win, that’s probably the only similarities those two have,” said Tony Kanaan, a childhood rival of Castroneves’ and a close friend and former teammate of Franchitti’s.
“Helio’s a happy guy that is always joking around. Dario is serious, focused. But when they’re both in the race car they’re extremely aggressive and fearless.”
Castroneves, 38, made Indy look easy when he arrived in 2001 and won in his first two tries. Then he waited through engine trouble, stormy weather, bad timing and bad luck — the stuff about which everyone always worries but no one has control — before reaching No. 3 in his ninth try.
Along the way Castroneves used racing success and a charming smile to compete on “Dancing with the Stars” and capture the hearts of unfamiliar Americans along with the show’s fall 2007 title. He also made news off the track with tax-evasion charges of which he was cleared in the weeks leading up to his third Indy win.
Castroneves wears his most recent champion’s ring with pride and doesn’t shy from talking about matching his mentor Mears with a fourth.
“Now I have more knowledge, not maybe a lot but I still have knowledge to keep the tradition of this place,” said Castroneves, who laughs about his trouble with English. “And I’ve been part of it.
“It’s since 2001 I’ve been here, and I never took it for granted what I was able to accomplish. That’s why I want to keep it alive and hopefully what the fans are asking for I’ll give it to them Sunday.”
Castroneves will start eighth — in the middle of the third row — in a Chevrolet-powered car fielded by 15-time 500-winning owner Roger Penske
“I’m putting in my mind,” Castroneves said of a fourth. “I’m dreaming because when you dream, dreams come true.”
Like Castroneves, the 40-year-old Franchitti missed the opportunity to get to the 500 earlier because he was on the wrong side of the open-wheel racing split that kept CART teams away from Indianapolis.
Franchitti, who starts 17th, missed 2003 with a broken back and ’08 during an experiment with NASCAR, so he matched Castroneves’ mark of three victories in nine 500s. Franchitti prevailed in 2007, his fifth start, in 2010 and 2012 — all under the yellow flag.